Best PuTTY Alternatives for SSH Clients

PuTTY is a terminal emulator. It enables you to log into another computer, which may be on the same network, or that could be accessed over the internet. The basic program has no security, but you can combine it with SSH to add on authentication and encryption to protect remote connections across the internet.

The tool also includes a file transfer facility, which can be made secure by adding in SCP and SFTP. The original software was written for Microsoft Windows, but now there are also versions that run on Linux and Unix.

PuTTY Configuration screenshot

The program is old. It was originally released in 1999. System administrators & regular users have become reliant on the program despite its relatively unsophisticated interface. Nobody questions why the name is spelled with an irregular case as “PuTTY.” No one questions what the acronym means — the name doesn’t actually stand for anything.

For more information on SSH – see: Getting Started with SSH: What do you need to know?

Here is our list of the best PuTTY alternatives for SSH clients:

  1. SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY EDITOR’S CHOICE An SSH utility for Windows that includes a protected terminal emulator plus SCP and SFTP. Download 100% free tool.
  2. KiTTY This is a fork of PuTTY that adds extra features such as session management, support for background images and transparency, and automatic login.
  3. ZOC Paid terminal emulator for Windows and Mac OS with rlogin and SSH connection options and an SCP utility.
  4. SmarTTY Free SSH-based terminal emulator for Windows with a tabbed interface for multiple sessions and an SCP utility.
  5. st (Simple Terminal) Free PuTTY substitute for Linux that occupies very little disk space.
  6. z/Scope Paid utility with a 30-day free trial specifically to connect to Unix and IBM AS/400 from Windows, Chromebook, or web browsers.
  7. XSHELL 7 Free for home use with a paid version for businesses, this tool installs on Windows but can communicate with Unix and Linux machines and it includes SFTP.
  8. iTerm2 Terminal emulator runs on Mac OS 10.10 and higher — includes a split screen interface for multiple concurrent sessions.
  9. SuperPuTTY Very similar to the original PuTTY, this tool is free to use, runs on Windows, and includes SFTP and SCP utilities.
  10. WinSCP Free Windows secure file transfer utility that includes an SSH-protected remote access facility.

These alternatives provide support for SSH client, which means they support the SSH protocol and provide client functionality that allows you to connect to remote servers over SSH. They may offer additional features such as session management, scripting, or other enhancements that may not be available in PuTTY. As always, it’s important to evaluate the features of these alternatives to determine which one best meets your needs.

The Best PuTTY Alternatives for SSH clients

Our methodology for selecting SSH client software

We reviewed the SSH client market and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • A GUI interface with easy-to-use functions for non-technical users
  • A secure tunnel for a connection that can reestablish connect after a lost connection
  • The availability of the client for a wide list of operating systems
  • Integrated file transfer utilities
  • An activity logging mechanism
  • A free tool or a free assessment period
  • A good trade-off between cost and service to provide value for money

We also looked at reliability, ease of use, ease of installation and depth of support and documentation, how up-to-date the tool is maintained and popularity of use within the industry. We then chose at least one tool for each of the major operating systems.

Feature Comparison Table

Product/FeaturesSolarWinds Solar-PuTTYKiTTYZOCSmarTTYstz/ScopeXSHELLiTerm2SuperPuTTYWinSCP
SSH SupportYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Telnet SupportYesYesYesYesNoYesYesNoYesNo
FTP/SFTP SupportYesNoYesYesNoNoYesNoNoYes
Customizable AppearanceYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Tabbed InterfaceYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYesYesNo
Scripting SupportYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYesNoNo
Open SourceNoYesNoNoYesNoNoYesYesYes
Multi-Platform SupportNo (Windows)No (Windows)YesNo (Windows)No (Linux)YesYesNo (Mac)No (Windows)Yes
Portability (No installation required)YesYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo

1. SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY (FREE TOOL)

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY

SolarWinds is one of the world’s leading network software providers. The company excels at producing infrastructure monitoring tools. The company got to the top of the market by providing very high-quality tools. You would expect to pay top dollar for this level of software. However, sometimes, the user community gets lucky and SolarWinds decides to release a very useful tool for free. This is the case with the Solar-PuTTY utility.

Key Features:

  • Secure terminal emulator
  • Telenet included
  • SCP secure file copy
  • SFTP secure file transfer
  • Multiple simultaneous sessions

Why do we recommend it?

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY is a free tool for installation on Windows. It provides secure connections with SSH and also has an integrated file transfer service with the choice of SFTP and SCP. You can set up connection credentials that appear as buttons in the Solar-PuTTY interface and then activate any of them by clicking on its button.

This secure terminal program runs on a Windows environment and integrates the security of SSH. As with the original PuTTY, you can use this tool to log in remotely to a computer. You can also use it to transfer files. Solar-PuTTY integrates SCP and SFTP for secure file transfer and also has an implementation of the classic Telnet system.

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY Settings screen

You can download the program file from the SolarWinds website. This is not an installer, but the tool itself. You just need to click on the file to open up the application.

You can open several terminal sessions simultaneously with the tool. Each session opens a new tab in the interface. The interface will store your credentials for the servers that you log into regularly and sign you in automatically. The interface gives you the option to color-code each session so you can distinguish between them. It is also able to re-establish a link and log you in again if a connection gets dropped.

Who is it recommended for?

Anyone would benefit from installing Solar-PuTTY. It will give you secure access to a node on your network or to a remote host. Secure file transfer options are also useful for everyone. The fact that it is free is an extra attraction. However, it is only available for Windows, so not everyone will be able to use it.


  • Completely free
  • Integrates with SCP and SFTP giving it more functionality than PuTTY
  • Offers secure credential storage for fast repeat access
  • Can color-code multiple sessions to help organize multiple simultaneous connections
  • Can automatically reconnect if the connection is interrupted


  • Like PuTTY, this tool is designed for technical professionals and requires basic networking knowledge before use


Solar-PuTTY is a great tool for remote SSH sessions and comes from one of the most professional software outfits in the business. It’s great for managing multiple sessions simultaneously from the one console in separate tabs. Scripts can be automated. The tools don’t require installation.

Official Site:

OS: Windows

2. KiTTY

KiTTY config_winscp_integration

KiTTY is a fork of PuTTY. That means that the source code of PuTTY was copied and altered some time ago to develop this separate utility. Since that copy was taken, the original program has been revised and updated.

Key Features:

  • Based on PuTTY
  • Two SCP versions
  • Chat facility
  • Text editor
  • Can operate through scripts

Why do we recommend it?

KiTTY is the true heir of PuTTY, being a development of the PuTTY code, so if you want a very close alternative to PuTYY, this is it. The tool provides a secure connection with SSH and includes SCP for secure file transfers.

KiTTY also gets updated periodically, so this tool has gradually diverged from the functionality of the original PuTTY. KiTTY is only available for Windows and it is free to use. Although the interface only runs on Windows, you can log into remote devices that run Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS.

KiTTY Sessions

You can create scripts to log in automatically and run commands on the remote computer’s command line. The interface is able to represent multiple simultaneous sessions.

Who is it recommended for?

This free tool is able to run on Windows, Linux, Unix, and macOS. This is a good choice if you don’t have Windows and can’t use Solar-PuTTY.


  • Is an improved altered variant of PuTTY, making it familiar to navigate
  • Supports scripting to automate repetitive tasks
  • Offers built-in chat and text editing capabilities for extended functionality


  • Only available for Windows
  • The interface is just as primitive as PuTTY

The KiTTY interface includes two SCP implementations. These are pscp.exe and WinSCP. The tool also includes a chat system and a text editor.

3. ZOC

ZOC Terminal

ZOC is a terminal emulator for Windows and Mac OS. The software is free to use and, although it can’t run on Linux, it can connect to computers running that operating system.

Key Features:

  • Secure SSH terminal emulator
  • SCP secure file copy
  • Multiple simultaneous sessions

Why do we recommend it?

The interface for ZOC includes handy buttons in a top menu bar to access functions such as file transfers. This is a reliable and well-used package that is quick to use once you get familiar with its commands. You get SSH for season protection and SCP for secure file transfers.

The system includes a powerful scripting language that can help you automate processes such as information gathering on remote systems. The terminal emulator can be set to use the xterm, VT220, Wyse, QNX, TN3270, or TN5250 standards. The interface allows multiple sessions to be open simultaneously.

ZOC Terminal Webserver view

Security for connections is provided by SSH. Unprotected connection methods, such as rlogin are also available for private networks. ZOC offers a wide range of file transfer standards that includes Kermit, Xmodem, Ymodem, and Zmodem. However, the option you should probably select for file transfers across the internet is ZOC’s SCP implementation.

Who is it recommended for?

The main reason that you would choose to pay for ZOC instead of using the free KiTTY or Solar-PuTTY would be because it offers you a choice of terminal emulator. This tool is available for Windows and macOS, but not Linux.


  • Operates on both Windows and Mac, giving admins more options to how they work
  • Features a full-fledged terminal and text editor
  • Supports multiple file transfer protocols, making it more flexible than PuTTY


  • Cannot run on Linux
  • Is a paid tool

Unfortunately, ZOC is not free. The software is distributed by a company in Europe and another in the USA, so you can choose to pay in Euros or US Dollars.

4. SmarTTY


SmarTTY v3.0 is free and runs on Windows. This SSH-based terminal emulator also includes the secure SCP file transfer system. A lot of PuTTY alternatives employ tabs to allow you to access several sessions in the same panel of the interface. However, SmarTTY has an unusual design. Rather than arraying the tabs along the top of the display panel, this tool’s designers placed the tab space along the left side and the bottom edge of the screen.

Key Features:

  • SSH-based terminal emulator
  • Simultaneous multiple sessions
  • SCP secure file copy

Why do we recommend it?

SmarTTY has an attractive interface. You can open many simultaneous connections with this tool, thanks to the tabbed interface. This is a free tool. It gives you a text editor, a hexadecimal terminal, and SCP for secure file transfers.

An index panel to the left of the main terminal panel shows the directory structure of the computer in the currently displayed session. This directory explorer is responsive, so you can move through the file storage by clicking on the directory icons.

SCP is a secure file transfer system, but it doesn’t have many functions — just a straightforward copy to, or copy from action. SmarTTY adds usability to SCP by enabling you to move whole directories at once. A couple of other useful features of this tool are an embedded file editor and a hexadecimal terminal type to monitor traffic on ports.

SmarTTY Smart Terminal Mode

Unique features: SmarTTY allows you to open multiple tabs within the same window, making it easy to work with multiple connections simultaneously. Also, depending on the version, SmarTTY includes an SSH key generator that allows you to generate new SSH keys and manage existing keys.

Who is it recommended for?

SmarTTY is worth a try because it costs you nothing to download the utility and it takes up very little space. However, this system is only available for Windows.


  • Allows for extended functionality by emulating the SSH terminal
  • Offers multiple sessions support and quick tabs to go back and forth
  • Supports SCP file transfers


  • Runs on Windows only
  • Only supports one type of file transfer
  • Has a higher learning curve than some of the other tools

5. st (Simple Terminal)


st (Simple Terminal) is a lightweight terminal emulator that is designed to be simple, fast, and easy to use. It is often considered a good alternative to PuTTY for Linux users, as it is designed to work well with Linux systems and has a small footprint.

The developers of st aimed to produce their own terminal emulator code instead of relying on traditional terminal protocols, such as xterm. Their motivation for this work is that they believe the regular terminal emulation systems are over-engineered and inefficient.

Key Features:

  • Lightweight program
  • Secure terminal emulator
  • Open-source

Why do we recommend it?

The st Simple Terminal is just that – a lightweight program that delivers a terminal emulator. There aren’t many features in this tool so if you just want a straightforward terminal.

The assumption is that st’s tight and effective code will use a lot less of your CPU and memory than the more widely-distributed staple emulators.

st simple terminal

Who is it recommended for?

You should only use st for connections on a LAN because there is no security with this tool. It doesn’t include SSH protection, so it shouldn’t really be on this list. The tool is only available for Linux.

That being said, it depends on the user’s preferences, and other terminal emulators such as GNOME terminal, terminator, xterm, etc are also good alternatives that can be used. It’s worth noting that st is a terminal emulator, it does not provide any other features that PuTTY does, such as serial communication, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for a fast and lightweight terminal emulator for Linux systems.


  • Built from the ground up terminal emulator
  • Designed to be lightweight and efficient
  • Transparent and open-source project


  • Only run on Linux operating systems
  • Does not support file transfer
  • Offers less protocol support than other PuTTY alternatives

This is an open-source project and the PuTTY substitute is free to use. It was written to run on Linux. There isn’t any file transfer facility included with st.

6. z/Scope


The z/Scope terminal emulator is written to run on Windows, Chromebook, and web browsers. The tool specializes in connections to Unix and IBM AS/400. This utility is not free, but you can get it on a 30-day free trial.

Key Features:

  • Connects to Unix and IBM AS/400
  • SSL protection for terminal emulator
  • SSH available with some editions

Why do we recommend it?

The z/Scope system is specifically designed for connecting to IBM z Series mainframes. It offers a range of deployment options because you can install it on Windows or use a browser-based version that will run on any operating system.

Connections are protected by SSL/TLS security. There are five different editions of z/Scope and only three of them integrate SSH.

Who is it recommended for?

You would only get this terminal emulator if you are running a z series mainframe. There is a file transfer utility available but it is only in the browser version and it is FTP and not secure. So, use this tool within your LAN.


  • Specialize in connection to Unix, making it a good option for heavy Unix users
  • Offers a more robust GUI, a good option for those newer to PuTTY


  • Not a free tool
  • Only the web version supports file transfer
  • FTP functionality is not secure

All versions use a tabbed layout to allow multiple simultaneous sessions to be viewed in the same window. Only the web version of z/Scope includes a file transfer function. Users of the Classic edition can pay extra to get file transfer capabilities added. However, the utility available is FTP, which is not secure.


XSHELL 6 dashboard

XSHELL is free for home use and there is a paid version for businesses. This tool runs on Windows, but it can communicate with Linux and Unix servers. Security options let you choose between SSH1 and SSH2. There is also an rlogin option. However, that doesn’t include encryption, so you would be better off sticking with the SSH session options.

Key Features:

  • Secure terminal emulator
  • Choice of SSH1 and SSH2
  • Credentials locker

Why do we recommend it?

XSHELL 7 is an SSH client that provides access to the PowerShell prompt as well as to the regular command line on Windows. This secure package is only free for home use and it provides SFTP for file transfers in both the free and paid versions.

The tool is able to give you a terminal on to remote computers and it will store your credentials in encrypted format for frequently-visited remote servers. You can open multiple connections and switch between them, using the tabs that display at the top of the interface terminal window.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is only available for installation on Windows. However, you can contact devices running Windows, Linux, and macOS through it.


  • Free for personal use, with a paid business option
  • Very detailed, supports multiple views, session management, and text editor
  • Supports encrypted saved credentials for frequent logins


  • Runs only on Windows environments
  • Can be complicated for users who are new to SSH/PuTTY

The file transfer function that is built into XSHELL uses the SFTP system, which is secure.

8. iTerm2


The iTerm2 system is available for Macs. Specifically, the program can run on Mac OS 10.10 and higher. This interface shows different terminal sessions through a split-screen method, allowing you to tile sessions side by side. To lessen confusion, the active panel shows in full resolution, while the others dimmed.

Key Features:

  • Secure terminal emulator for Macs
  • Session search facility
  • Session recorder

Why do we recommend it?

If you want a free, text-based secure terminal emulator that runs on macOS, you will like iTerm2. This is a Mac-only program and it is an open-source project. Connection security is provided by SSH but it doesn’t include a secure file transfer service.

You can set up keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the functions of the tool quickly.

The current session text can be searched with a search text field that is embedded into the upper frame of the session window. The emulator also remembers previous commands issued in the session and offers a popup with autocomplete suggestions when you type in a new command. A recording function lets you watch through a replay of everything that has happened in the session.

Who is it recommended for?

If you work on a Mac and you need to contact other computers either locally or across the internet, this is a good choice for you. It’s free to use, so give it a try.


  • Designed for Mac operating systems, making this a good option for heavy Mac users
  • Can manage multiple sessions for projects involving a variety of devices
  • Supports encrypted saved credentials for frequent logins


  • Only runs on Mac
  • Purely text-oriented, no GUI
  • No file transfer option
  • The dashboard can get crowded with a large number of sessions

The interface includes a password manager to securely store your credentials for all of the computers that you log into remotely regularly. The tool doesn’t include a file transfer utility.

9. SuperPuTTY


SuperPuTTY is a very close copy of the original PuTTY. In fact, it is a replacement of the user interface of PuTTY and requires the original program to be installed and operational. It is an enthusiast-written utility that runs on Windows and is free to use.

Key Features:

  • A close copy of PuTTY
  • SSH option
  • SFTP and SCP secure file transfer

Why do we recommend it?

SuperPuTTY is a lot like PuTTY and it offers connection protection with SSH. You can use this tool for Windows for free and it includes SCP and SFTP for file transfers.

The SuperPuTTY interface enables multiple sessions, with each connection running in a tabbed page. The terminal protocols that the program offers are SSH, Telnet, rlogin, and RAW. The SSH option is the better choice because it includes user authentication and encryption. Secure file transfer functions follow the SCP and SFTP methods.

Who is it recommended for?

If you just want a secure terminal emulator that is exactly the same as PuTTY, you will enjoy using SuperPuTTY. This tool will only install on Windows.


  • Layout feels just like PuTTY, no need to learn a new interface
  • Features a GUI
  • Offers multiple protocol support like SSH, telnet, and rlogin
  • Can securely move files over SCP or SFTP


  • Runs only on Windows
  • Not a good option for those looking for an improved interface

10. WinSCP


WinSCP is a file transfer utility, written for Windows. The utility is free to use and it has been downloaded more than 184 million times to date. SCP, which is the protocol that the tool is based on, doesn’t include any capabilities to issue commands on the remote device, so you would think that it would not be a very good basis for a PuTTY replacement.

Key Features:

  • SCP and SFTP secure file transfers
  • SSH-protected remote commands
  • Includes WebDAV

Why do we recommend it?

WinSCP is a very widely-used tool, but only for file transfers – it doesn’t have a terminal emulator. This free tool is encountered in homes and offices all over the world, so if you switch jobs, you will probably encounter WinSCP in your new company.

This is a very popular tool and it offers more than just SCP. The tool also includes FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV implementations. Fortunately, for this review of PuTTY substitutes, the tool includes a remote command facility. This is an SSH-protected remote access system.

Who is it recommended for?

If you just need a secure file transfer utility and you have a Windows PC, you will love WinSCP. Users of macOS and Linux will need to look for a different tool.


  • Has many more features than PuTTY, as it is technically a file transfer utility
  • Easy to navigate user interface for those who don’t like a CLI as much
  • Features a remote command option for SSH


  • Runs only on Windows
  • Not as lightweight as a command line-based tool
  • Fans of traditional PuTTY may find the GUI to be slower than typing commands

Choosing a PuTTY Alternative terminal emulator

The market for terminal emulators is very well supplied. As you can see from our list, the category of PuTTY alternatives for Windows is oversupplied. Although this list of options seems very long, there are actually a lot more out there. Don’t worry about whether or not there will be an SSH server when you try to create a remote SSH session because just about every operating system has SSH capabilities.

Remember, if you are connecting over the internet, you should only choose a terminal emulator that is protected by encryption. The same advice also holds true when you transfer files across the internet – don’t rely on FTP, use SCP or SFTP.

You certainly don’t need to stick with PuTTY just because you’re used to it. There are lots of better systems out there and most of them are free. Just about all of the paid options offer free trials. So, explore these great alternatives to PuTTY and you will find a remote device access system that beats PuTTY and wins your admiration.

Do you have a favorite terminal emulator? Are you determined to stick with PuTTY? Leave a message in the Comments section below and share your user experience.

PuTTY Alternatives FAQs

What is the difference between Telnet and SSH?

telnet and SSH seem to have a lot in common in terms of the user interface and the function of getting access to a remote computer. However, SSH applies encryption to the connection so all data passed back and forth is secure. Telnet transfers data in plain text.

What is the main alternative to SSH?

Telnet is the clearest alternative to SSH – the big difference between the two is that Telnet is not secure. Mosh is another similar system to SSH and it is secure. Mosh was created to be an improvement on SSH, particularly in the way the service handles changes in the client’s IP address during the connection. This is particularly important on mobile devices.

How do I test a serial port with PuTTY?

You can test a serial port (also known as a COM port) through a PuTTY loopback. You will need a loopback connector to do this. If you haven’t got one of those, you can improvise with a paperclip. To do this your port needs to be a female coupler. If it isn’t, get a male-to-female adapter and plug it in. Unwind a paper clip and stick one end in pin 2 and the other in pin 3. Then do the following:

  1. Open PuTTY and go to the Configuration screen and click on Session in the left-hand tree-structure menu.
  2. In the Serial Line field, enter the label of the port that you are testing (eg COM3). Enter 9600 for Speed and click on the Serial radio button for Connection Type.
  3. Click on the Open button. This will start the session.
  4. Type anything in at the prompt. If those characters appear, your serial port is working.

What is the best PuTTY SSH Client for Mac?

Terminal is an SSH client that is already bundled into the Mac operating system.

See also:
SFTP Command Cheat Sheet
SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server review
The Best Free SFTP and FTPS Servers for Windows and Linux
PowerShell Cheat Sheet